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Friday, 25 May, 2001, 10:56 GMT 11:56 UK
Eavis' Farm Aid plan
Michael Eavis
Michael Eavis: Says Glastonbury 2002 will go ahead
By BBC News Online's Ian Youngs

Dairy farmer Michael Eavis has devoted part of his life and his farmland in Pilton, Somerset, to music since 1970.

It's still only a part, though - the man who made the Glastonbury Festival the best-loved musical and cultural jamboree in the country still describes farming as his main occupation.

But now he is asking music to give something back.

I've been running Glastonbury all my life, practically, and I feel that I can do something

Michael Eavis
Eavis, 65, keeps 350 dairy cows on farmland that has been in his family for six generations.

It is the same farmland that, almost every year, hosts more than 100,000 music fans and rat race escapees for a weekend of decibels and debauchery.

He has seen the effects of foot-and-mouth at closer range than most and, although the nearest case is 25 miles away, he has felt what he calls the "drastic" decline of farming.

'Drastic demise'

So he is doing what he does best (or second best, if you count milking) - and organising a fund-raising festival.

"The general demise of the farming industry over the last three or four years has been quite drastic," he says.

Glastonbury 2000
Glastonbury was cancelled before foot-and-mouth hit
"It's all fading away and no-one's really noticing it, and no-one seems to be too bothered about it.

"I just feel it needs bringing to the public attention in a rather dramatic way, so that's what I'm doing."

He hopes his festival - pencilled in for Cardiff's Millennium Stadium on 27 October - will attract 40,000 people and raise money and morale for farmers.

It was to be called Livestock - a cross between Live Aid and Woodstock - but he has changed the name back to Farm Aid to avoid confusion.

The biggest immediate problem facing farmers, Mr Eavis says, is that many farms will simply die as a result of foot-and-mouth.

'No income'

"There's no milk cheque so there's no income. They've got to buy the cows back in six months time or whenever foot-and-mouth is finished, and then the cows are going to be twice as expensive so they won't be able to afford to buy back in.

"Once you've had foot-and-mouth, that's usually the end because they certainly cannot afford to live without making any money."

Michael Eavis in 1970
Eavis: Organised his first festival in 1970
The money from ticket sales will go to five farmers' charities - although he refuses to put a figure on how much he is hoping to raise.

He says there has been a lot of interest from high-profile bands who want to play, but it is likely that he will not announce the line-up until July.

"There's a serious problem within the farming community and it really needs to be addressed by someone," he says.

"I've been running Glastonbury all my life, practically, and I feel that I can do something."

A Labour candidate at the last general election, Mr Eavis refuses to blame the government for their handling of the crisis.

But he is not campaigning for parliament this time.

"I think everybody should do it just once," he reasons. "I'm not really a full-time politician."

"I've got a farm to run, I've got a festival to run, I've got lots of grandchildren, I've got lots of life and I'm just going to get married again, so there's lots of things happening."

'Unknown ballgame'

Glastonbury 2000
Glastonbury attracts more than 100,000 people
He describes the foot-and-mouth outbreak as an "unknown ballgame", and says he does not think it should be made into a political issue.

"I don't think it would have made any difference whoever was in power," he says. "It was just unfortunate.

"No-one knew what was happening until it was too late, and it was confusing for everyone.

"The main problem was that it wasn't diagnosed early enough. I can't really blame the government for that."

The fact that he cancelled this year's Glastonbury in January over safety fears turned out to be a blessing in disguise.

Foot-and-mouth would have forced him to call it off at a later date after a lot more money had been spent.

"It's still risky - it still costs us millions of pounds to put it on," he has said.

He founded the festival with his late wife Jean in 1970 after being inspired by a visit to the Bath Blues Festival.

Just 1,500 people saw T Rex play after Marc Bolan had driven up to the farm in his velvet-covered car.

Jean died in 1999, but Eavis is getting remarried in August and is determined to carry on with the festival.

Farming is still an integral part of his life, and the festival.

"I don't think I could do it without the cows," he once said.

"It helps me to relax, it keeps my head in shape. It's very therapeutic."

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See also:

25 May 01 | Music
Farm Aid 'set for October'
04 Jan 01 | Entertainment
The Glastonbury legend
28 Jun 99 | Glastonbury 1999
Eavis' labour of love
04 Jan 01 | Entertainment
Glastonbury 2001 cancelled
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